For any cricket fan, Tony Greig’s words will forever be cherished. He made generations fall in love with the game thanks to his electrifying commentary.

For many fans, the first thought that comes to mind when one thinks of Greig is, of course, his excellence as a commentator. After all, he elevated some of the greatest moments in the sport over the past few decades with his silky voice and infectious energy. Indians, especially, will always remember his contribution in making Sachin Tendulkar’s Desert Storm immortal, his magic with the mic as Harbhajan Singh completed a hat-trick during the epic win against Australia at the Eden Gardens in 2001, among several other instances.

For all his achievements as a commentator, it is easy to forget that Greig had a fine career as a player too. During the 1970s, he was one of the top all-rounders of the game. He entertained fans when he played for England in his five years in international cricket. But, perhaps, it is the example he set by never giving up despite suffering from epilepsy for most of his life that will continue to inspire for years to come.


Born in South Africa in 1946 and having moved to the English shores where he represented Sussex from 1965, Greig went on to captain England. He was a right-handed batsman and medium-pacer (and an occasional off-spinner), who played 58 Test matches and 22 One-Day Internationals. He scored 3,599 runs and took 141 wickets in the longest format, while getting 269 runs and 19 wickets in the 50-over game. He played 350 first-class matches over a period of 13 years. He wasn’t one to shy away from controversies either as evidenced by his infamous “grovel” comment that irked West Indies (and for which Greig apologised soon after).

While his career was as remarkable as it was short-lived, he ranks high on the list of all-rounders possessing the best average difference (batting average minus bowling average) in the history of Test cricket. Grieg, then, began his association with Kerry Packer’s World Series of Cricket and enjoyed more than three decades of being a commentator of the game.

Best average diff. for all-rounders in Tests

Player Matches Runs Bat avg. Wkts Bowl avg. Average diff
Sobers 93 8032 57.78 235 34.03 23.75
Kallis  166 13289 55.37 292 32.65 22.72
Imran 88 3807 37.69 362 22.81 14.88
Miller 55 2958 36.97 170 22.97 14.00
Pollock 108 3781 32.31 421 23.11 9.20
Shakib 56 3862 39.4 210 31.12 8.28
Goddard 41 2516 34.46 123 26.22 8.24
Greig 58 3599 40.43 141 32.2 8.23
Botham 102 5200 33.54 383 28.4 5.14
Hadlee 86 3124 27.16 431 22.29 4.87
Cairns 62 3320 33.53 218 29.4 4.13
Criteria: 2,000 runs and 100 wickets

Add to all this, the fact that he suffered from a major illness for most of his life and overcame it to be the celebrated legend he is today, is when one realises just how inspiring Greig is.

At the age of 12, during a holiday in his native place in South Africa, he suffered left temporal scarring after the truck that he was travelling in met with an accident. In an interview with ABC in 2010, Greig said he experienced a “funny feeling” at that time, which he later realised was a sign of epilepsy.

“It was about a year later, playing tennis at an inter-schools match I had a grand mal seizure, a full-on seizure, so that’s where my life and the life of my family sort of turned upside down,” said Greig.

He was finally diagnosed as an epileptic when he was 14 and had to have medication to treat it for the rest of his life.

Not many knew about his illness for a long time, though, which was possible due to the support of his teammates and the media. Greig managed himself during his playing career with the help of careful medication, by being alert to the warning signs (which were when his mind started to wander or he became forgetful), and by resting as much as possible. He would even famously sleep as and when he could in the middle of Test matches.

However, he did suffer a few seizures in public. He collapsed during his first match for Eastern Province in 1971-’72, and he also had an epileptic fit at the Heathrow airport in 1975 as the England team returned from Australia.

Spreading awareness about epilepsy and helping patients cope with the treatment was also close to Greig’s heart. He was a board member of Epilepsy Action Australia for 19 years and went to great lengths to help the cause.

In 2012, Greig was diagnosed with lung cancer and died a few months later aged 66 due to a heart attack. Soon after, his wife Vivian reflected on his passion for helping those suffering from epilepsy during a fundraiser for EAA.

“When I think about how much epilepsy was a part of our everyday life, to see what Tony was able to achieve as a result of it, if there is a way I can help epilepsy and support the legacy that he left behind, that’s what I would like to do,” Vivian was quoted as saying by The Daily Telegraph. “I really want to do more to help. It was something Tony lived with for more than 40 years.”

Greig’s journey was extraordinary in more ways than one. He suffered from a severe illness for a long time but he never let it dictate his life. And his never-say-die spirit can be best gauged from this quote: “I think it helped me, I’m sure having got over epilepsy I was a better cricketer for it.”

Here’s a must-watch video of Richie Benaud, Bill Lawry, Ian Chappell, Mark Taylor, Jeff Thomson and Mark Nicholas remembering the life and times of the great Tony Greig: